Bemidji State football team upsets No. 16 Augustana 30-27 in overtime
Bemidji State football coach Jeff Tesch made three gutsy play calls Saturday during Bemidji State's 30-27 overtime road victory against No. 16-ranked Augustana in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference Opener.
The first call nearly won the game, the second almost cost the game and the third proved to be a game-winning decision.
"It was a well-fought, hot, hard-earned victory against a ranked team so I'm very proud of the guys," Tesch said. "At the end of the game there were a lot of decisions that went well and didn't go well."
BSU fullback Brent Kondziolka scored his first career touchdown on a 5-yard pass from quarterback Lance Rongstad to end the first overtime possession and seal the win in front of 4,011 fans at Kirkeby-Over Stadium.
Bemidji State avenged last year's 10-0 loss to Augustana in Bemidji, improved to 2-0 (1-0 NSIC) this season and will host Southwest Minnesota State at 6 p.m. next Saturday at Chet Anderson Stadium in the Shrine Game. Augustana dropped to 0-2 (0-1 NSIC) after losing a close game last week to defending national champion Minnesota-Duluth.
BSU's first overtime win since 2002 followed a wild fourth quarter where BSU rallied for a late lead and seemed to have a win in hand.
Rongstad passed for 203 yards and two touchdowns. He rushed for 64 yards and one touchdown - 20 yards came on the first two plays of overtime to set up Kondziolka's touchdown.
"When Lance Rongstad is back there when there's a game to be won and a lot at stake, I'll take him over a lot of other people," Tesch said. "I told him to go out there and win. And he did it."
The BSU offense was inconsistent at times but delivered at key moments. Tight end Brian Leonhardt was part of those moments and finished with a team-high 129 yards receiving. His lone touchdown, a 34-yard strike from Rongstad, gave the Beavers an early 7-0 lead in the first quarter.
Tesch's 100th career win at Bemidji State was set up by the Beavers defense, which limited the Vikings to four first downs and 104 yards of offense in the first half. BSU led 10-7 at halftime.
Augustana tied the game on Drew Behrens' 20-yard field goal to open the second half and went ahead 17-10 on Nate Mahone's 2-yard touchdown run on the opening play of the fourth quarter.
BSU regained the lead with back-to-back rushing touchdowns. The offense answered when Brandon Miles tied the game on the following drive with a nine-yard touchdown run with 11:45 to play.
Tesch's first gutsy call - Justin Lee's 37-yard reverse pass to Matt Gandrud advanced BSU to the Augustana one-yard line - was BSU's biggest offensive play of the day and set up Rongstad's touchdown run. The score put BSU on top 24-17 with 4:07 remaining.
The BSU defense caused problems for Augustana throughout the game and came up with a key stop when the Vikings turned the ball over on downs at its own 27-yard line with 2:38 left.
The BSU offense walked onto the field and game appeared to be over.
But the Vikings forced the Beavers into a field goal situation and were able to save one of its timeouts when a gutsy third-down pass play approved by Tesch fell incomplete.
Needing a field goal to put the game out of reach, Zach Pulkinen's kick was blocked and the Vikings forced overtime when Sam Holsen's nine-yard touchdown reception capped a nine-play scoring drive with 40 seconds remaining.
"That's the one I wish I could have back," Tesch said of the third down pass call. "I'll take the blame ... it looked pretty ugly and we had to go with the field goal. Unfortunately that turn of events didn't go well."
Mahone almost scored on the first play of overtime with a 20-yard run to the BSU four-yard line. The Vikings settled for a 26-yard field goal after BSU linebacker Buckley Wright swatted away a pass in the end zone three plays later.
Kondziolka's touchdown on Rongstad's play-action pass was Tesch's last gutsy call. Tesch said the winning play was the third time the call was made Saturday and the first time it worked.
"We made an adjustment at halftime because we saw the outside linebackers crashing hard on play actions," said Kondziolka, a sophomore from Orland Park, Ill. "When I crossed the linebacker I looked for the ball and it was there. This (win) puts Bemidji State on the map even more. Finally to get my first touchdown here in a pretty big game - I'm pretty happy."